Minnesota elected its first Somali-American lawmaker to US Congress

November 11, 2018 (GMN) - Minnesota state Rep. Ilhan Omar has become one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, easily winning the election in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District the Minneapolis-area district previously represented by Keith Ellison on Tuesday.

Omar, a 36-year-old Somali refugee who immigrated to the United States as a teenager, beat Republican Jennifer Zielinski to take Ellison’s seat, which he vacated to run for Minnesota attorney general.

The makeup of the district has allowed progressive politics to flourish. Omar ran on a platform that embraced the left, including Medicare-for-all, a $15 minimum wage, and tuition-free college.

Omar said President Trump’s “politics of fear” motivated her to get in the race.

“It is a district that is very much interested in making sure our progressive values are represented, and they know the only way they’ll continue to be represented is if we have people who are not going to just think about getting themselves to Washington but think about getting other progressives to Washington,” she said in an interview with MinnPost.

Omar, the first Somali-American Muslim to be elected to the Minnesota legislature or any elected office in the United States, is also part of a historic wave of women looking to clinch higher office this year. Women and people of color are still underrepresented in Congress (20 percent women and 19 percent people of color), but 146 women have won Democratic primaries in 2018.

Omar, a 36-year-old Somali refugee who immigrated to the United States as a teenager, faced Islamophobic attacks during her campaign from outside conservative media outlets, who have baselessly claimed she was once married to her brother and has ties to terrorists. But those attacks didn’t sway the general election Omar handily beat Republican Jennifer Zielinski in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District, for a seat once held by Rep. Keith Ellison. (Gambella Media)